Tonight our guest is Bob Forrest, who some of you may know from his bands, Thelonious Monster and The Bicycle Thief, or his solo record A Sane Man Living in Insane Times, or from his appearances as a counselor (and the Director of Chemical Dependency at Las Encinas Hospital) on VH-1’s Sober House and Celebrity Rehab.
Bob is also something new for us here at Movie Night: He is actually the subject of a documentary, which must be a pretty weird feeling. Bob and the Monster is currently filming and set for completion at the end of this year and is directed by Keirdra Bahruth, who won the Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival this year for producing the documentary We Live In Public.
Bob Forrest was legendary in Los Angeles long before he hit the small screen as the no BS, been-there-done-that-way-more-times-than-you drug counselor seen on Celebrity Rehab and Sober House. As frontman for Thelonius Monster, one of Los Angeles’ great post-punk bands, he wrote and sang with passion and intensity, landing on Capitol Records. A fixture on the club, party and after hours’ scenes Bob was as infamous for his drug and alcohol use as he was loved and adored for his creativity and bonhomie.
The first time I met Bob was on the side of the stage at a show at the Palace. I don’t recall who was playing, I only remember my friend, a long time pal of Bob’s, opening his coat so Bob, already pretty wasted, could duck down, hide and drink from a flask. Bob was scary then to me, even though he was very polite; that he was living up to his reputation as a notoriously out-of-control madman that night overrode his manners, and I just sort of numbly shook my head when he offered me a swig. He was really, really messed up. I thought he was just going to pass out right there.
Bob was also pretty frightening when he showed up very late at the same friend’s birthday party at a Hollywood restaurant a few months later, stumbling out of the passenger side of BMW driven by a glamorous woman and swaying through the parking lot. But he did apologize for being late. So for a long time that was my impression of Bob: Scary-high. But really, really polite.
It took Bob 35 stays in various rehabs, along with time in jail and a mental ward before he got clean. Through it all, his insight into the human condition deepened as he struggled with addiction and with himself, emerging on the other side in a classic tale of redemption and inspiration. When get finally got and stayed clean he put as much effort into that for himself and others as he once had done to stay high. His politeness became compassion tempered with wisdom as he dealt with addicts on a daily basis working to get them clean. And he is way more fun at parties now.
A comment by Bob inspired Dr. Drew Pinsky to develop Celebrity Rehab, and, later, Sober House. Bob wanted the public to see rehab wasn’t a cushy get-out-jail-free card for the rich and famous, but that it is in fact a serious matter of saving lives.
Through his transition from junkie to his job as Las Encinas Hospital’s Director of Chemical Dependency, Bob has kept writing, playing, recording and performing his songs. One of Bob’s coolest club events recently was Happy Hour Hootenany, every Friday night (early, home by 8:30!) for a couple months at the Silver Lake Lounge. Along with regular guests, Bob would play his own tunes—and a game called “human jukebox” where audience members would shout out song titles and Bob would perform them a cappella.
Along with his phenomenal knowledge of music and firsthand insight into addiction, treatment and domestic drug policy (you can listen to Bob’s podcasts on those subjects at his website, Bobforrestmusic.com), Bob has some very progressive views on war, peace, and politics (which are also on his website). Plus, along he’s the subject of a documentary, which brings us back to Movie Night.
So ladies and gentlemen, please welcome Bob Forrest.
Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew, The Complete First Season